Thursday’s GOP debate made it clear that Ted Cruz is the man to beat in Iowa, and now Bernie Sanders on the Democrat side has joined the “you have to beat me to win” club.
Her failure to take Sanders seriously has caused Hillary to do what Trump just did to Cruz: attack an opponent who sits on higher ground. This close to Iowa, that kind of “going negative” is the act of a campaign desperate to retain its momentum (which is clearly diminished).
Clinton – who has struggled to stoke the passion of her supporters – had a surfeit of oomph in the Charleston debate hall, but her jacked-up performance also reinforced the impression that she’s more motivated by personal survival than a fervor to reverse economic injustices. In a dial-test focus group held near the venue by Democratic consultant Chris Kofinis, 29 out of 30 undecided voters declared the less-strident Sanders the winner of the debate’s first hour. The Clinton campaign dismissed that as aberration, claiming recent polls showed a hefty majority of undecideds breaking for Clinton.
When Trump tried to attack Cruz on campaign contributions from big donors at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention, Trump was booed by the crowd, something he’s clearly not used to.
“You give a campaign contribution to Ted Cruz, you get whatever the hell you want,” he said, before boos erupted from the crowd.
Trump went on as the boos grew louder: “Say whatever you want, it’s okay, he didn’t report his bank loans. He’s got bank loans from Goldman Sachs, he’s got bank loans from Citibank, folks, and then he acts like Robin Hood?”
Even with new media beginning to dominate message, campaigns are not won on Twitter. It’s easy for Trump to rest on his laurels, although by no means do I think he’s slowing down his efforts. It’s simply that the law of diminishing returns operates without fail, and without mercy.
Just look at the tone and frequency of these attacks.
Meanwhile, there’s barely a mention of Trump from Cruz’s Twitter account, other than a retweet of Cruz’s win in New York’s Metropolitan Republican Club straw poll. The high ground, like at Gettysburg, makes all the difference.
Suddenly, Cruz’s comments about “gravity” are beginning to make a lot more sense. Before burning every single bridge with Cruz, the GOP should stop to consider who ends up being right.